The Dos And Don’ts Of Gardening

RHS gardening photo

Ever suffered from those annoying aches and pains after a busy day of gardening? Well, such ‘woes from hoes’ could soon become a thing of the past, thanks to some clever new research currently being conducted in the UK.

Scientists at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and Coventry University have launched a joint study to look at the effects that different gardening tasks have on the physical health and wellbeing of gardeners.

Following in the footsteps of similar studies involving top cricketers and dancers, professional and amateur gardeners of all ages are visiting Coventry University’s state-of-the-art motion capture lab, where experts in the School of Art and Design are scientifically monitoring these gardeners performing everyday gardening activities such as digging, weeding, pruning and mowing the lawn.

This project, believed to be the first of its kind for gardening, aims to identify the best gardening tasks and methods for maintaining healthy muscles and joints. It will also assess the performance of a range of gardening tools to see if any of them can be redesigned to reduce the risk of strains and injury.

“Millions of people around the UK enjoy gardening, so I’m sure it will be of interest to them to get some scientific insight into the dos and don’ts when it comes to the physical aspects,” says Dr James Shippen, an expert in biomechanics at Coventry University’s School of Art and Design.

“By involving people of both sexes, different age groups, different skill levels undertaking different gardening tasks we hope to develop our knowledge across a broad spectrum of gardeners so that we can better advise them on what is beneficial for their health and what might be of harm,” adds Dr Paul Alexander, Head of Horticultural and Environmental Science at the Royal Horticultural Society.

RHS Dr Paul Alexander and Coventry University Dr James Shippen

Dr Paul Alexander (left) of the RHS and Dr James Shippen from Coventry University. Volunteer gardeners in this research study must wear a Lycra body suit fitted with reflective sensors to record their movements. This enables the researchers to calculate the loads in their bodies during these gardening activities.

Digging motion capture research by RHS

Mowing motion capture research by RHS

How To Avoid Gardening Aches And Pains

Let’s hope the boffins can eventually find a quick, healthy cure for our achy backs and shoulders. But, in the meantime, here’s a few top tips you can try today to help you avoid those pesky aches and pains from gardening.

  • Take it easy – regardless of your age
  • Stop whatever you are doing at regular intervals and try any of these simple exercises. When pruning, pause then move and stretch your fingers, hands and wrists in all directions. If you are working on something taller than you, pause then move your shoulders and neck in a circular motion. When you are weeding, digging, raking or bending down, pause then place your hands on your hips and arch your back. Remember to stand upright, yet stay relaxed, during these exercises to get the maximum benefit and pain relief from them
  • Wear kneepads to protect the front of your knees
  • Take breaks, especially during repetitive tasks, to avoid straining your muscles and joints. Hey, that’s why they call it repetitive strain injury! Rest up every 15 minutes, or half-an-hour at the very latest
  • Perform all gardening tasks in moderation – you can always come back later and finish off what you were doing

Images Credit:

Royal Horticultural Society (RHS)

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